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My Experience Advertising My Ebook with BookBub

| Posted in Advertising |

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We’ve talked about advertising here before — in fact one of my earliest posts covered my experiments with buying Goodreads ads — and whether it’s an effective way to promote one’s books. In most cases, it’s not worth it, with sites charging more than you have any chance of making back in sales (especially for those of us writing in niche genres with smaller readerships). There are, however, some popular blogs that charge a flat fee to reach thousands of subscribers, and the sheer numbers can make buying advertising from them worth it. Authors may see hundreds of sales on a sponsorship day, as well as residual sales due to increased visibility in top lists at Amazon.

Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today are popular sites right now, but all the indie authors out there know they’re popular (and effective), thus meaning a long wait to purchase an ad (if the sites are open to new sponsors at all). I’ve had good results advertising on both sites, but that was last spring, and I haven’t seen opportunities come up in a while.

Bookbub is a site that first came on my radar a couple of months ago when they ran my free book, The Emperor’s Edge, out of the blue and sent me an email to let me know about it. EE had an extra 3,000 downloads that weekend. Considering EE has been free for almost a year and usually only sees that many downloads in an entire month, it was very noticeable blip.

I checked out Bookbub in more depth and found they have tens of thousands of subscribers and rather than sending a generic email to all of those subscribers, they let people sign up based on their reading preferences and will only send out links to appropriate books. So, if you’re a science-fiction author, you buy an ad that will only go out to SF fans, and you only pay to reach those people. Unlike many other sites, Bookbub isn’t Kindle-only, so you can include links to Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, etc. as well as Amazon.

Since EE received a nice boost from the mention, I decided to buy a spot for Encrypted, one of my non-free ebooks. It’s one I haven’t spent much time advertising because it’s a stand-alone with a limited audience. As I write, Bookbub’s SF/F category has 70,000 subscribers and it costs $85 to advertise a free ebook and $125 for a non-free one. (Here’s a link to all of their categories and rates.)

It’s worth noting that Bookbub will only promote deals: “BookBub promotes books that are free or at least 50% off their usual digital price. It’s rare for us to feature books with a deal price of more than $3.99, and the greater the discount, the more likely we are to accept a listing.”

I usually sell Encrypted for $3.95, so I lowered it to $0.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the weekend of the ad. I was going to do Smashwords as well, but forgot until the ad had already gone out (I’d wanted to change the SW price, because I was worried they’d send the update out to their distributors and then I’d get in some price-match limbo with the book stuck at 99 cents at Amazon for the next four months).

Lowering the book to 99 cents, of course, dropped me into the 35% royalty rate at Amazon and B&N, meaning I’d only make 35 cents per sale. I’d have to sell about 375 ebooks to break even. I wasn’t sure if that would happen or not. I don’t generally write stories that appeal to a broad audience, and I think it takes a special romance-SF/F-thriller-mystery-geeky-heroine-loving person to find the blurb for Encrypted appealing.

That said, I ended up selling about 450 extra copies of Encrypted that weekend. For the only time in the book’s life, it made it below a 500 Amazon sales ranking (a brief stay, but still cool). It peaked at 200-something.

About 50 of those 450 sales came through Barnes & Noble, which made me wish I’d been able to list links to all the stores out there, but, as I mentioned, it’s not feasible to run a weekend sale at stores where you can’t upload the ebooks directly.

By the end of the weekend, sales had slowed down, and I raised the price back to $3.95. The sales ranking has been gradually rising, and I’m sure it’ll be back in its normal 20,000-ish range before long, but it did sell more copies than average in the week after the ad ran.

For those who may be thinking the 99-cent price tag alone may have accounted for extra sales that weekend, I don’t think this is the case. I experimented with a 99-cent price point for the book before, just to see if it would make a big difference, and it didn’t, not without additional promotion.

Overall, I found the Bookbub spot worth paying for and appreciated that the wait was only a week or two, as opposed to the months-long (if ever) wait we’re seeing with some of the other more popular sites right now. Bookbub was much more effective than the Kindle Nation Daily ad I tried earlier in the fall (which was for an advertising spot on their book lending site) — it didn’t give me a noticeable blip in downloads. At all. Ditto for advertising on the Kindleboards. I suppose the word will get out that Bookbub is working, and it’ll be booked solid before long, too, but for now… go for it.

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Comments (40)

“I experimented with a 99-cent price point for the book before, just to see if it would make a big difference, and it didn’t, not without additional promotion.”

Yep. That matches with what I have been told by other authors, publishers, and app developers.

As always, thank you Lindsay for distilling this valuable information for us. It’s really nice of you to share what works/doesn’t/works better, especially when it comes to spending our hard-earned dollars on advertising.

Your content is truly all-killer, no filler! :-)

Haha, thanks for reading and commenting, Ilana! We aim to please around here (that being the royal We).

I wonder what might have happened if you’d priced it at 1.99 instead of .99. Fewer sales, probably, but do you think the net return would be higher?

It’s always possible, Judy, but I think 99 cents is more of an impulse buy whereas 1.99 and up takes a little more thought (people perhaps downloading and reading the sample instead of simply buying), and since you’re still making the crummy 35% royalty at that level, it’s not much of a win. I tend to either use free or 99 cents for deals or simply skip to $2.99 and up so I can get the 70% royalty.

I’ve probably spent well over $100 on 99 cent impulse buys since I bought my Fire.

I’ll still buy a $1.99 book, but I do pay more attention to it.

*cough* Umm. Yes, we have Fire here. It powers our SteamReaders.

Sounded good so I shot them an e-mail. I have used Kindle Nation recently, but only their FBH option. Have you used Kindle Fire Department? I am scheduled to use them on Saturday. Also, wondering which days of the week are best, and I’m assuming it’s weekdays.

I do remember trying the Kindle Fire Department (back in May, I think) to plug my freebie, and I think it helped boost downloads that month, but not as significant as the three sites I mentioned here.

As for days of the week, I can only say that I get more sales on weekends. Th-Su would probably be good to grab if you can.

Good luck!

Thanks for the post, Lindsay. It seems that one of the big challenges of book marketing is going to be staying ahead of the rush of other indies scrambling for the latest effective way to flog their book.

BookBub does exercise some editorial gatekeeping. I have my newest novel going free November 14 and 15, and tried to buy an ad about 2 weeks ago. I received a generic email in which they declined my money. Their reason: either their ad slots were full for those days or my book did not fit their criteria. They did not specify. Disappointing! I’d been looking forward to making some noise with my freebie.

Thanks for the informative post, Lindsay! I particularly enjoy your posts on the nuts and bolts of advertising and the results that you’ve seen. I appreciate the level of detail that you share–it really helps to see some data and specific numbers to supplement the overall description.

Quick question about advertising: when you’re doing your advertising, do you set yourself a monthly advertising budget? Or do you use a more organic process where you just take advantage of the advertising opportunities that seem like good fits?

Lindsay, shhhhhhh! You’ll have everyone heading over there.

;) Lol.

I plan on using them next month with the new books coming out. I’ve put off advertising except for a Goodreads experiment until I had more books out.

If you price match the .99, you’ll make $.75 per copy sold, as I understand it.

I had that happen on accident at first, David (got the 70% royalty on a 99-cent book) but eventually went in and changed it to the 35% royalty in the KDP dashboard. I’m pretty sure there’s something in their ToS about doing this, and it seems like I heard of someone having their account frozen because they were gaming things to get the higher royalty at a below-$2.99 price tag. Just an FYI!

Thanks! I had no idea. Haven’t looked at the TOS in a year and a half at least. Makes sense they wouldn’t care for that.

Lindsay,

Nice to see marketing resource discussed for ebook authors. This content can be hard to find and it’s often times tained. I will try some ads there. Thanks for the good morning read.

Ron Lee
Author
How to Write an eBook – Excerpt on eBook Marketing
http://ebookhowto.org/market-and-sell-more-copies/

Thanks for the continuing report on advertising. The budgeting question above is an interesting one as buying ads regularly again signals that this is a business. I’m waiting to do any advertising till I have more than one book out, but still storing up information in the meantime!

So they let you know when it is time to discount your book?

If I submit a listing, I would tell them what the current price is and what the price will be when they run the promotion?

Thanks for the info!

[Encrypted is] one I haven’t spent much time advertising because it’s a stand-alone with a limited audience.

A little OT here–have you give much though to positioning Encrypted as a prequel to the Emperor’s Edge series? I felt like it gave me background on Sicarius and fleshed out the EE fictional world even more–it wasn’t really a stand-alone, it felt like part of that universe. Especially if you’re considering revisiting the tech from Encrypted in the EE books (? you are, right? Or am I making that up?), I think the book could be marketed as part of EE. After all, all the Vorkosigan Saga books are marketed as such, even the ones that are set centuries before Miles’ birth and the ones where no Vorkosigans actually appear.

Thanks for the thoughts, Mary. I haven’t done anything to change the covers or blurbs for Encrypted, but I am actually planning to tie the two storylines together in the end and mentioned that at the end of EE5. More EE readers have picked it up since then, so maybe not a bad idea!

OK, I just finished up EE 4&5, and I’m going to double down on what I said before. So much of what happens in Encrypted becomes important to the EE series–and it’s fun for the reader to know more than most of the characters and to be able to recognize danger before they do.

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Given that EE is already a free download, have you thought about offering a sale on Dark Currents? That’s actually the book I’ve read the most, and not *just* for the cabin scene. :P

If I see a sale on the second in a series where the first is already free, I’m more likely to go ahead and get both rather than wait until I’ve read the first. :D

Hm, maybe I’ll give it a try when I release 6. Drop 2 to 2.99 or something. Mega blow-out special. :P

It doesn’t appear that Bookbub is an option for an unknown writer. If you look at their guidelines they will only take books that have critical acclaim from “respected” reviewers, have won prestigious awards, or have a “significant” number of high-scoring reader reviews. I tried to use them for a free book promo and was rejected within about an hour. I only have 7 reviews for my novel (one of 4 I have up so far) and am guessing they require a lot more from an unknown. They have indicated that I can resubmit with more info and I’m going to try but it’s unlikely for most writers trying to garner attention that it’s a viable option. I can’t blame them because they are recommending to their select group of readers and don’t want mediocre books, but unless they’re willing to read them first, which isn’t they’re thing, it’s a dead end. Too bad because I think it’s one of the best current ways to get downloads and sales. Most books they advertise are probably already significant sellers.

Thanks for posting this. That is where I came adrift. I went back to their guidelines page. I fit all their stipulations except one:

“BookBub promotes books or authors that have received critical acclaim, whether it be from respected reviewers, prestigious awards, or at the very least, a significant number of high-scoring reader reviews. The more renowned the book or author, the more likely we are to accept a listing.”

I’m relatively new to the indie world. None of my books have made any splash (yet). The free book I was attempting to advertise (I’m experimenting with Select) has no reviews, since it is newly released. Basically, BookBub was never going to touch me. Grin!

It’s true that this won’t work for new books, but they took EE and Encrypted, neither of which have any wards or high-falutin critic reviews. They just have reader reviews, and I’ve seen other indies listed on Bookbub who have far fewer reviews that I do.

You might want to try again when you’ve got closer to 20 reviews at Amazon. I’m just guessing at the number though. I suspect, too, that they’re going to demand at least a 4.0 average review rating (I’ve seen that requirement on quite a few book blogs — sometimes it’s even higher).

Good luck!

They ran Ed Robertson’s Meltdown http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009S17UG4/?tag=lesgedi-20 when it had only three reviews on Amazon. I think if you have a really professional looking cover and solid blurb, they’ll consider you.

You’re welcome. It’s too bad because it appears to be one of the most effective places to run a sale. I’m going to try them again as soon as I feel like I might have a better chance.

Lindsay, I want to thank you no end for recommending BookBub. They ran Shadow of Stone this week while it was free, and not only did it have more downloads than ever before, the companion novel Yseult has since sold over 100 copies. I recouped the cost of the ad within a couple of hours, and now Yseult is on the top 20 page (paid) for historical fantasy, which just might get a few more people noticing it.

Wonderful, excellent tip! :D

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Hi, thank for your post. You can download/submit free ebooks from http://www.ebook-addict.com too. Great site there!

Lindsay,

How reliable are Amazon & SW in dropping the price for the nominated promotion dates, then re-raising it thereafter?

Will the price drop/raise reliably filter through to all the SW retail outlets in a timely way?

Thanks,

John

Amazon will change the price within a few hours if you’re going through the dashboard. If you’re price matching with a free book elsewhere, it’ll take a while. SW changes their price immediately, but it doesn’t update on the partner sites as quickly. They’re faster than they used to be, but it still might take a couple of weeks. Sony tends to be the slow one.

Thanks a lot Lindsay. Amazon sounds easy enough. As does SW itself.

But after one gets the promo dates from BookBub, how does one bring the pricing at all the SW outlets into sync?

If some of them may update the price anywhere between a few days and two weeks, and you don’t know in advance when this will be, how does one sync the promo with the pricing?

I just asked SW about this. They replied:

“The price will be sent to the retailers, but bear in mind that this is not instantaneous, and the lag between making the change and changing it back may take longer than your originally scheduled promotion. To sidestep this, you can create a coupon for your book to set it at 99 cents for the time you specify, but this will not be honored by any of the retailers; it’s only good at Smashwords.”

is the coupon a possibility, or will this alienate buyers who want to buy the book from the various SW outlets? And can (say) Sony owners buy direct from SW?

Thanks again!

John

Hi Lindsay,

I don’t know if this comment comes too late here, but I am finding it IMPOSSIBLE to get Bookbub to list my book. We’re talkin $600 for a fiction listing, too! I tried 3 times with no luck. My book is polished, unique, and ready for prime time…:) I went with the 2.99 price point. Currently I am exclusive with KPD as I republished my book there after I learned that I couldn’t change my search terms unless I published thru them. I’m wondering if this is hurting my chances. I will try again in 2 weeks – their suggested wait time. Are there other services like this one? This is just nuts!

Oops…that’s a NONfiction listing!

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